For almost three quarters of a century, Richard C. Rich has provided his knowledge and expertise in the planning and design of parking to thousands of clients throughout the United States, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Central and South America. “Dick” (is how he likes to be called), is the owner and founder of Rich & Associates, Inc., a Parking Consulting, Planning, Engineering, and Architectural firm based in Southfield, MI. This year, Rich & Associates is celebrating a big milestone as this is our 55-year anniversary. As part of our celebration we want to acknowledge our founder and one of the nation’s leading parking consultants.
Dick’s career in the parking industry started in 1948 during his freshmen year in college at Marquette University in Wisconsin. Dick took a job at National Garages as a night shift parking attendant for 90 cents an hour at a downtown parking lot to pay his way through school. “I wore myself out running around moving cars,” Dick said, “I often thought there must be an easier way.” His keen sense of perspective for servicing the needs of the parking lot users allowed him to advanced quickly to a night supervisor’s position where he oversaw 5 parking lots and 2 garages. Dick even held a record and won an award for parking the most cars in a single day in a lot that held 40 spaces, (a total of 10 rows that were 4 cars deep) in which he ran more than 200 cars that day! When National Garages (the firm that employed Dick) decided they needed to establish a design department, they looked to him to start it. National Garages decision to move Dick to Detroit to start the design department was influenced by Dicks newly obtained engineering degree from Marquette University, and all of the previous design contributions he had made during his time of employment. While at National Garages, Dick earned a reputation as one of the industry’s most creative designers and would eventually rise to the position of Chief Designer at the firm.
However, in the early 1960’s the thought of becoming an entrepreneur began to appeal to him. While he achieved great success at National Garages, he knew that he would have much more creative freedom if he struck out on his own. So, in 1963, ten years after beginning his career with National Garages, he started his own parking design and planning firm, Richard C. Rich & Associates (now Rich & Associates), in Detroit.
Almost from the beginning, Rich & Associates was a national success, working with some of the architectural industry’s giants. Dick and his team were entrusted with the design of some of the country’s most notable parking structures. Rich & Associates was in the vanguard of the parking industry, responsible for some of the largest garages built at that time, and one of the first firms to see the benefits of mixed-use structures. Under Dick’s leadership, the firm pioneered a comprehensive parking needs and feasibility study approach that has resulted in the successful completion of more than 500 studies across the country.
Dick was also an innovator when it came to parking management. In the late 1970s, he became the first and the only parking consultant to privately finance, develop and operate his own parking structure. He used his ownership opportunity as a platform for testing new parking technologies, products, and design ideas to improve the firm’s clients projects. Dick was the first in the country to use neon signage as an experiment in a garage in Des Moines Iowa which was published in the Des Moines press as one of the garages with the best signage in the City. Dick was also able to use his own facility to compare new lighting fixtures which allowed the firm to be on the cutting edge of new technology.
After 65 years in the business and 55 years at the head of Rich & Associates, Dick Rich continues to go strong. He is proud of the fact that there are thousands of garages in use throughout North America and overseas that he and his firm had a critical role in designing. The journey we have been on, reminiscing over our past 55-year, has been a melding and culmination of Dick’s and his firm’s work.
The firm’s thorough grasp of the theoretical and practical applications in parking design is born from a combination of designing more than 3,000 parking garages and the firm’s private development and management of its own parking facilities. Dick has over the years, successfully built and held together a truly world class team of parking designers and consultants at Rich & Associates. Fostering what at one time was an evolutionary environment that has morphed into a genuinely revolutionary, 21st Century state-of-the-art parking, planning, design, and engineering firm. “As far as I’m concerned, this is the most exciting industry there is,” says Dick. “Transportation is constantly evolving, and there is no end to the opportunities we have for new discoveries. Why would I give this up?”
1) What is your fondest memory of the last 55-years at R&A?
“Meeting Minoru Yamasaki and being his consultant for about 5 years until his death and establishing a relationship that allowed me to continue our work with the Yamasaki firm.”
2) What is your funniest memory of the last 55-years at R&A?
“There was a parking operator that contacted me who had about 10-15 locations in the city that we did some consulting for to help improve his parking lots and to improve his income. We asked for his financial figures to input them into the computer and after we ran all of the material that he sent us, it was obvious that he wasn’t making any money. I called him and his response was,” “I sent you the wrong set of books, those are the ones we pay taxes on, there’s a factor of 3 you’ve got to multiply all the numbers by!”
3) What is the greatest lesson you have learned in the parking industry?
“Security for the cars and for the patrons is number 1. Whatever you do you’ve got to make it easy on the patron, and make sure he or she is safe and secure while in the garage. That’s why we are an advocate, starting in the mid ‘80s, of TV monitoring of our own parking structures and recommending it to all of our clients. One of our own structures in Des Moines had sound monitors and TV cameras. If there was a loud scream in any one aisle the cameras adjacent to that row and in that row were capturing video so we could see exactly what was going on.”
4) What is your favorite place that you’ve traveled to for work in the last 55-years?
“Cali, Columbia. The first project I did down there was in the late ‘60s, I did a parking garage where we convinced them to put a 12-story apartment house on top of the garage. The owner became one of my best friends and our relationship continued for more than 3 decades until his death.”
5) What is the best advice you have received and the best advice you can give to somebody in this industry?
“Do the best you can with what you’ve got & pay attention to the little details.”
* The Detroit Free Press
*The Parking Professional40